The co-owner of Ernie Els Wines is expanding his Stellenbosch presence, buying the neighboring Stellenzicht winery. Baron Hans von Staff-Reitzenstein, who has been majority shareholder in Ernie Els wines since 2015, has purchased the farm and winery from Lusan Holdings.
According to Els executives, the deal is part of a strategy to secure more of their own fruit. The 550-acre property in the Helderberg region, with 250 acres currently planted, is one of the largest in the region and significantly larger than Ernie Els Wines’ 178 acres. The purchase price was not disclosed, but industry sources say Stellenzicht was listed for $9.84 million.
According to Andrew Harris, head of marketing and sales for Ernie Els Wines, the Stellenzicht farm’s enviable location, excellent terroir and potential to produce high-quality fruit helped clinch the deal. A large portion of the farm is well-suited to Rhône varieties, specifically Syrah.
"We hope to work off each other’s strengths and produce award-winning wines,” Harris told Wine Spectator of the acquisition, which merges one of the Cape's most high-profile wineries in Ernie Els with the historic Stellenzicht, whose origins stretch back to 1692. The 1994 Stellenzicht Syrah Stellenbosch earned 92 points and was one of the early benchmark reds for South Africa’s wine industry shortly after the country was given access to the U.S. market post-apartheid. However, the winery has struggled to hit that mark since and is now in need of significant investment.
Von Staff-Reitzenstein is a German real-estate investor and industrialist with an extensive wine collection who entered the wine business when he bought a majority share in Ernie Els Wines in 2015. Els, one of South Africa’s most successful professional golfers, founded the winery 17 years ago and remains a partner.
The entire Ernie Els winemaking team, led by winemaker Louis Strydom, will move across to the new farm in early July, but Lusan will continue to own the Stellenzicht name for two years as it sells existing inventory. Lusan is in the process of dissolving its partnership with liquor giant Distell, and industry sources say its other wine properties are up for sale.
During the two-year period, the new owners of Stellenzicht can decide what to do with the brand, what to retain and what to pull out—some vines are diseased. Replanting will commence in 2018, once they have conducted soil analysis.